Editor's Notes

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Editor's Notes

As this issue is dedicated to digital photography I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts on where we stand in the midst of this incredible change that has taken place in photography over the past 10 or so years. These days, it seems like if you support film photography you're like a monarchist after the French Revolution. But we don't buy into the total rush to digital, knowing full well that there are still many great images made on film and that silver halide has its own charm, quality, and pleasing attributes. Indeed, many photographers we know have actually returned to capturing their images on film, although more and more are using the film images they now make, and have made in the past, as source images for work in the so-called digital darkroom. It is, for us, not a film or digital debate, but one that centers around how the best quality can be obtained.

There's no question that digital has changed the way many people treat their images in terms of marketing and especially distribution and sharing. Just go to any search engine, type in photography (or wedding photography, black and white photography, etc.) and you'll get a sense of the incredible number of photographers who have had to convert their images to digital to get them in Internet form. When photographers contact us here it's common practice now for them to simply say "see my website" rather than get sheets of slides or mailing pieces, as we did in the past. Digital lets the world see what you're up to, and showing off your portfolio, or trying to get people to buy your images or services, is now largely a web-based activity.

The same goes for making prints, although we know many fine photographers who still labor in the chemical darkroom. Increasingly, people are finding out that they can get very good prints using ink jet printers, even those who favor monochrome over color imaging. This, to me, is a good thing, being someone who spent over 10 years working five days a week in the darkroom doing custom black and white prints. The chemical darkroom has its charms, but one of them is decidedly not the exposure to often-toxic chemicals. I wouldn't think of printing without using potassium ferricyanide to clear highlights or finishing up with a selenium-toning bath, practices that only time will tell if and when they take their toll.

The quality of scanners, and their shrinking price, has solved much of that dilemma for me. New scanners offer resolution from film that allows you to make exacting prints of rather large size. While scanning can be a craft onto itself, the new units easily match any resolution you can get from scanning backs on medium format cameras and even outperform those coming from 8-megapixel digital chips for smaller cameras. My feeling is that we haven't even begun to realize the potential this affords in terms of image quality and the renaissance (and often resuscitation) of images we've all shot on film in the past, and will shoot in the future.

Digital also requires more housekeeping than any of us imagined, especially those who have shot digital with a passion over the past few years and are now left with perhaps thousands of virtual images. This became apparent recently when I was seeking out images for a talk. True, there are great image organizing software programs that display all your images on various drives and CDs and help you sort through them. But I found it much easier (and quicker) to get out the old slide sheets and fire up the light box and make my sort that way. From that group I just hit the scanner desk, did a batch scan, and made my digital presentation with ease. I could also have placed them in a Carousel and shortened my work time further, though I might have been looked at oddly by the hall's AV squad who didn't know what a slide projector looked like.

Yes, I will continue to photograph with digital, and I sure won't be returning to the chemical darkroom. But I don't see digital as the answer to everything I want to do in photography. It's another tool, and a very good one at that, which serves as a means to an end.

With that in mind we hope you enjoy this digitally themed issue of Shutterbug. Just keep it all in perspective and take it for what it's worth, and know that here at Shutterbug our dedication is to photography, and not just one way to create it.


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